Parsing Rockefeller On Reconciliation And The Public Option

Sam Stein's report on Sen. Jay Rockefeller's reluctance to pass a public option through reconciliation has led to a lot of frustration. However, as is usual with Rockefeller, I think his statement not only does not make sense, it is also pretty squishy (he's not known as Jello Jay for nothing.) Rockefeller said:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) [. . .] sa[id] that he thought the maneuver was overly partisan and that he was inclined to oppose it. "I don't think the timing of it is very good," the West Virginia Democrat said on Monday. "I'm probably not going to vote for that, although I'm strongly for the public option, because I think it creates, at a time when we really need as much bipartisan[ship] ... as possible. "

[MORE . . .]

Rockefeller added: "I don't think you [pursue] something like the public option, which cannot pass, will not pass. And if we get the Senate bill--both through the medical loss ratio and the national plans, which have in that, every one of them has to have one not-for-profit plan, which is sort of like a public option."

Here's my read -- Rockefeller is thinking about the Thursday "bipartisan" summit, wants the best optics for it, and does not want the Republicans to have the public option to kick around. What happens after Thursday when bipartisanship is dead? Indeed, to follow Rockefeller's thinking, and Stein should have asked him this, then he should oppose ANY reconciliation fix, with or without a public option. After all that would not be "bipartisan."

Indeed, nothing in Stein's report indicates that Rockefeller supports a reconciliation fix. IF Rockefeller is to be taken seriously on this, his position would be a serious blow to passing a health care fill in any form, not just one with a public option. I think it will be interesting to see what Rockefeller says AFTER the Thursday summit.

Cuz if he is going to be for a reconciliation fix, it is not at all clear how he can be against including a public option if he is, as he claims, "strongly for the public option." I think he is for the pubic option and would not be the vote to stop it.

I would count him as the 49th or 50th vote for it. Clearly he won't be the 25th vote.

Speaking for me only

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    You know, all this talk of creating (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 07:36:19 AM EST
    bipartisan legislation would not be a problem if any of these Senators - or those folks in the White House - actually had a clue how to put together a bipartisan coalition.

    So to Jay et al, I say, fine pass a bipartisan bill, but show me the coalition that you're going to deliver before we go through this exercise again.  Otherwise, skip it and get working on a good bill that can pass under reconciliation.

    It never occurred to any of these people that had they left reconciliation on the table from the start, they might have been in a better bargaining position in the normal process - or they were never really interested in a good bill in the first place.  Unfortunately, I am now inclined to believe that the problem is the latter rather than the former.  Sigh.

    Hopefully the summit (none / 0) (#3)
    by jbindc on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 07:54:28 AM EST
    Can actually get something accomplished, although I have very little faith that it will.  

    The AP seems pretty doubtful:

    Starting over on health care, President Barack Obama knows his chances aren't looking much more promising. A year after he called for a far-reaching overhaul, Obama unveiled his most detailed plan yet on Monday. Realistically, he's just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.

    Rockefeller may be hedging his bets, but as you well know, many other Dems are not happy.

    White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer called the proposal "an opening bid" for Thursday's summit. "One thing I want to be very clear about is that the president expects and believes the American people deserve an up-or-down vote on health reform," he said.

    But privately, a senior White House official sought to lower expectations, saying a solid single is better than striking out swinging for the fences. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

    Liberal Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., one of the rank-and-file lawmakers who would have to close ranks to pass Obama's proposal, questioned what's left in it for him after the president decided to dump a government insurance option sought by progressives.

    "For many of us, the House bill represented a series of difficult compromises, and if the president is going to ask us to compromise further to go toward the Senate, I have to ask who's vote we're getting," Weiner said.

    That means the plan is unlikely to pass without an all-out effort by Obama to muster votes from anxious Democrats. "I think all of us are going to have to sell this," said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the third-ranking Democrat in the House. "The devil is in the details."

    If Obama ultimately settles for a pared-down plan, the final bill could look a lot like what Republicans have been calling for over many years. It would include federal funding for high-risk pools that would extend coverage to people denied because of medical problems, a new insurance marketplace for small employers and individuals buying their own policies, as well as tax credits for small businesses.

    Really, are you serious? (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by inclusiveheart on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:17:28 AM EST
    Do you really think that the GOP are going to that summit with any even remote intent to advance healthcare?  Based on what I saw Mitch McConnell and others saying on Sunday morning, I wouldn't count on any cooperation in good faith.

    No (none / 0) (#10)
    by jbindc on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:20:11 AM EST
    But I'm trying to be an optimist that SOMETHING will get accomplished.

    Honestly, what has been going on in our politics the last few years reminds me of the beginning of the Fall of the Roman Empire - our country is self-destructing before our eyes and these jack-a-ma-holes are responsible.  I can only BE optimistic that some will open their eyes before it's too late.


    The summit is simply to establish, very publicly,, (none / 0) (#51)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 03:09:22 PM EST
    Republican intransigence so as to justify the use of reconciliation.  

    That is all that will be accomplished.


    Well, the more we indulge their sideshows (none / 0) (#54)
    by inclusiveheart on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 09:03:38 AM EST
    with "hope and faith" or whatever, the more delays we have to suffer.  Remember the jobs summit in December?  What did we get out of that?  A puny jobs bill - $15 billion - while today we hear that Wall Street handed out $20 billion in bonuses and we have known for some time that that small group of people have been given Trillions by the Federal government.  $15 billion for 300 million people vs. Trillions for the financial industry.  You think anyone on the Hill is acting in good faith these days?  I certainly don't and I am not going to allow them to try to pass off these summits as some sort of placeholder for real action.

    Not really about Rockefeller (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by jbindc on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:11:58 AM EST
    But an interesting analysis on the excise tax:

    It happens often in Washington: A perception emerges and soon hardens into fact. Take the proposed tax on high-cost insurance plans in the Senate's health-care legislation. Because organized labor took the lead in opposing the tax, the assumption took hold that it would hit unions the hardest.

    Both sides made use of this perception. Opponents of the tax could argue that it would hurt a lot of hardworking factory workers or teachers who had traded wage gains in return for good health benefits. Proponents of the tax portrayed opposition to it largely as a special-interest issue driven by self-protective unions.

    But according to a new analysis, the conventional wisdom about the tax is wrong: The tax would actually fall equally on nonunion plans. At least 80 percent of the workers whose plans would be subject to the tax in 2019 would be in nonunion jobs, according to the analysis by Ken Jacobs of the University of California at Berkeley Labor Center and William H. Dow, a professor of health economics at Berkeley who was a member of President George W. Bush's Council of Economic Advisers.

    This impact is roughly in line with the overall breakdown of nonunion vs. union workers with employer-provided plans. And it would be true under both the version of the tax passed by the Senate and a more labor-friendly one the White House agreed to last month.


    The House bill instead relies on a surtax on the wealthy. But Obama has made plain his preference for the tax on high-cost plans. To mitigate its impact, the White House and union leaders last month negotiated revisions, including slightly raising the tax threshold, limiting the tax for businesses with many female or older workers, and exempting government workers and union plans until 2018.

    Congressional Republicans have attacked the deal as a carve-out for labor, but according to the analysis, the revisions would also benefit many nonunion workers. The authors, whose work was funded by the California Endowment and the liberal Institute for America's Future, estimate that the revisions would reduce the tax's revenue by $41 billion, of which 71 percent would accrue to nonunion workers.

    If employers remained with their current plans, the researchers estimate that 23 percent of plans would be subject to the tax by 2019 in the Senate version, while 14 percent of plans would be hit under the revised deal.

    Thank You (5.00 / 2) (#18)
    by cal1942 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:57:35 AM EST
    jbindc. On the excise tax.

    ... the conventional wisdom about the tax is wrong: The tax would actually fall equally on nonunion plans. At least 80 percent of the workers whose plans would be subject to the tax in 2019 would be in nonunion jobs, according to the analysis by Ken Jacobs of the University of California ...
    This impact is roughly in line with the overall breakdown of nonunion vs. union workers with employer-provided plans.

    I went over this a few days ago.

    Calling opposition to the excise tax a union benefit only is the usual anti-union trash that even some alleged liberals engage in.

    The fact is that unions carry the water for everyone who works whether they're a union or a non-union worker.


    amen (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:10:48 AM EST
    of all the things I am tired of I am most tired of union bashing.

    I personally am grateful (none / 0) (#27)
    by cawaltz on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:12:01 AM EST
    to the union which my husband belongs. :)They aren't perfect but they got us great health coverage, good wages, and my husband has one of the few jobs in a right to work state where he knows he isn't arbitrarily get laid off.

    unions created the middle class (5.00 / 2) (#31)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:42:01 AM EST
    in this country.  and the decline of the middle class tracks perfectly with the decline of union power.

    of all the things they (republicans) (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:43:19 AM EST
    have gotten people do that were against their own interest that is the most annoying and obvious.

    NAFTA anyone? (none / 0) (#52)
    by BobTinKY on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 03:10:55 PM EST
    Thanks for posting this (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:27:03 AM EST
    Also this: "It happens often in Washington: A perception emerges and soon hardens into fact."

    That's how the excise tax came to be seen as so essential to the Village in the first place, seems to me.


    There should be (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by cal1942 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:12:13 AM EST
    research done to create an anti-bipartisan vaccine.

    Should be administered to members of both houses of Congress, the president, the media and the electorate at large.

    Rockefeller's statement should be enshrined along side so mamny other statements that clearly indicate that too many members of Congress have completely forgotten why they were sent to Washington.

    They were sent to take action on problems confronting the nation.  Rockefeller's inane statement is proof that he hasn't a clue about his mission.

    Bipartisanship for its own sake is a disease that's killing us.

    Nothing (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:23:32 AM EST
    worthwhile is going to come out of the senate until they lose their love of bipartisanship.

    Only one party loves it. (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by observed on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:26:25 AM EST
    That's the problem.

    Republicans love bipartisanship (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by observed on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:39:54 AM EST
    today just as much as they did when FDR was President.

    Apparently (none / 0) (#13)
    by jbindc on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:26:20 AM EST
    Nothing (period) comes out of the Senate these days.

    Senate sitting on 290 bills passed by the House.


    Bipartisanship (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by DancingOpossum on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:52:00 AM EST
    I wish there were a way to permanently ban its use in all political and punditical discourse. It's the bane of our existence.

    think this is interesting (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Capt Howdy on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:52:19 AM EST
    Washington -- One-third of voters in Nevada say they would be more likely to vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this fall if he wins passage of the public option in the health care bill, according to a poll released today.

    Las Vegas Sun

    It is interesting (5.00 / 1) (#41)
    by cal1942 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 12:30:56 PM EST
    The Village is so completely isolated that I could swear elected officials think their constituency resides entirely in the Village.

    Nationwide polls have consistently shown that public insurance is supported by the majority, but ...

    If Reid ignores the wish of his home state and loses it will be the 2nd straight Democratic majority leader in the Senate to lose.

    You'd think they'd catch on but their solution is always to turn right.


    I wish (none / 0) (#19)
    by CST on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:58:42 AM EST
    every state (where the P.O. would win of course :)) would do polls like this.  It couldn't hurt to let them know it's not just the national audience that cares.

    Funny! (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Emma on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:10:12 AM EST
    What happens after Thursday when bipartisanship is dead?

    Bipartisanship will never be dead.  It's the signature policy of this WH.

    Rockefeller thinks a not-for-profit plan (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by Anne on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:13:43 AM EST
    is "sort of" like a public option?  "Sort of?"

    He not only does not grasp the concept of what the "Public" in "Public option" means - I imagine he's not alone on that score - but saying that he's "strongly for the public option" and at the same time giving up on it without any fight at all tells the rest of the story.  And it isn't pretty.

    This is the kind of attitude that will be present at the Health Care Summit:

    Oh, we can't do that, it's too hard, and that corporate cash will dry up, so...what to do, what to do?  Oh, right, we don't actually do anything but mouth platitudes and shrug our shoulders and make excuses for why we're just helpless to do more, and hope our constituents don't see us stuffing our pockets with their cash, and when all is said and done, we'll just let Max Baucus tell us what the next step is.

    This lovely, bullet-pointed proposal should be read slowly, and more than once; as you consider what is in it, as you think about what it really says and provides for, don't be surprised if you find yourself muttering, "hey, wait a minute...does this say what I think it says?  Does this really say the donut hole will not be closed for 10 years (that's a long time when you're "old," but the longer it takes to close it, maybe more people will do Medicare a favor and just take a big ol' dirt nap.  Does it really say that we've moved from subsidies to tax credits, with no explanation of how that all works?  How does a tax credit I have to file a tax return to get help me pay insurance premiums?  Or are they going to just shoot the credits right to the insurance company?  Does it really say that insurance will become affordable through the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history?  Are premiums the same things as taxes, or is it vice-versa?  Does it really say that it will strengthen oversight of insurance premium increases?  What oversight does it provide now that will be strengthened?"

    I could go on, but you get the idea.  Too bad most people won't, because not only will most of them not read this proposal, but they will allow themselves to be swayed by the nice photo ops and sound bites that the media will show us, unaccompanied by any substantive questions or analysis.

    Does anyone really think Jay Rockefeller is going to add anything to the conversation when his rhetoric includes phrases like "sort of like a public option?"

    Yeah, me neither.

    And whatever the Democrats (none / 0) (#26)
    by observed on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:59:31 AM EST
    propose, Republicans will say it is "exactly" like  socialism.

    We all have questions, even or especially the CBO (none / 0) (#38)
    by jawbone on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 11:54:05 AM EST
    which says there are not enough details or firm features to allow "scoring."

    Well, dh'uh. That's a feature, not a bug.

    I love that Lambert at CorrenteWire.com wrote that reading the WH announcement sounded liks an insurance brochure. And, like an insurance brochure, was equally designed to not actually inform the reader....


    Hmm (none / 0) (#42)
    by cal1942 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 12:42:10 PM EST
    How does a tax credit I have to file a tax return to get help me pay insurance premiums?

    [every month]

    I believe this method was in a Republican plan a few years ago.

    The other day a commenter used the term Quisling President.


    This part of the Obama plan is worse than the original Senate bill.

    Bet the farm on this; Republicans still won't support his wet dream bipartisanship.


    The problem is we have a lot of senators (5.00 / 3) (#34)
    by steviez314 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:55:14 AM EST
    who would be the 50th vote but not the 25th, and a lot of senators who are happy to be the 25th vote and not the 50th.

    Your comment leads me to reflect (none / 0) (#35)
    by ruffian on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 11:01:38 AM EST
    on what a strange job 'senator' has become. So many bizarre considerations, having nothing to do with the public good, go into making their decisions.

    I have Ted Kennedy's memoir in audiobook but have not listened to it yet. I'll have to see if it is honest enough to shed some light on these strange creatures.


    I'm thinking this is Jay being a team player (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 07:22:15 AM EST
    They had to find a way to kill renewed PO discussion, and for some reason (perhaps a very good one) has has accepted that it must be done.

    I think this works in concert with (none / 0) (#5)
    by observed on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:08:41 AM EST
    yesterday's outline from the White House, which had no public option.
    I predict that the only firm agreement from Thursday's meeting will be that the public option is just a TERRIBLE idea.

    I agree. (none / 0) (#12)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:24:21 AM EST
    He sounds like he had talking points faxed to him from the WH.

    I actually doubt that (none / 0) (#25)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:32:51 AM EST
    He's not, never has been a go-to guy for anything by anybody.  Jello Jay, remember?  You can't count on him. He's just always been terrified by the prospect of standing against vehement opposition.  He caves on pretty much everything.

    But doesn't he usually vote the opposite (none / 0) (#29)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:29:38 AM EST
    of his pre-vote proclamations?

    Yes (none / 0) (#44)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 01:04:25 PM EST
    And in this case, he came out of the chute as a strong supporter of a public option.  QED.

    This is Rockefeller's leverage point (none / 0) (#4)
    by BTAL on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 07:56:11 AM EST
    He wants and is drafting a bill to stop the EPA from  regulating CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

    There are more things than just HCR happening.  Simple actually.

    Well, if he were a Republican he (none / 0) (#6)
    by observed on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:09:44 AM EST
    would draft legislation which declares that C02 is a global cooling agent.

    "Rocky IV" (none / 0) (#28)
    by KD on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:14:09 AM EST
    Rockefeller has not done one single good thing for the state of West Virginia since he went there. As rich as he is, he's still totally bought out by the coal companies and dirty industry. It's pathetic! Why do rich people move to a poor state to do nothing for the people? Is it really just hang around with the lords of the powerful Senate?

    Why did Rome fall? (none / 0) (#20)
    by Salo on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:05:53 AM EST
    A stupid miopic coceited Senate?

    Josephus Liebermanus, Maxentius Baucus, Iaius Petrafelleras.

    How to explain Sen. Lieberman's (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by oculus on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:37:50 AM EST
    saying he will be the point man re striking down DADT?

    that was very interesting to me (none / 0) (#33)
    by CST on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:43:57 AM EST
    especially considering his b.f.f. in the senate McCain has come out against it.

    Maybe he has been reading the polls in CT.


    Polls (none / 0) (#36)
    by Ga6thDem on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 11:07:36 AM EST
    Polls and more Polls in both of these cases IMO. McCain has never been anti gay much really and certainly Joe hasn't been much of a friend but there are elections and primaries looming.

    yea (none / 0) (#39)
    by CST on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 12:08:13 PM EST
    honestly I was surprised by McCain on this.  Especially considering the stance of his wife and daughter.  But I'd take them over him any day.

    Let them "kick around" the public option (none / 0) (#37)
    by robotalk on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 11:09:01 AM EST
    if they can.  The more exposure it gets, especially in light of mandates, the better it gets.  Once they criticize the bureaucratic aspects of public option, the only other option even better is single payer.  

    Rocky...for it before he was against it. (none / 0) (#40)
    by oldpro on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 12:10:50 PM EST
    The new democrats.

    Very few (none / 0) (#53)
    by Rojas on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 06:28:49 PM EST
    "new democrats" in this bunch.

    Greenwald (none / 0) (#43)
    by waldenpond on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 01:01:43 PM EST
    I'm with Glenn....[Democrats perpetrate the same scam over and over on their own supporters]

    The Democratic Party's deceitful game

    [They pretended in public to "demand" that the public option be included via reconciliation with a letter that many of them signed (and thus placate their base: see, we really are for it!), while conspiring in private with the White House (which expressed "sharp resistance" to the public option) to make sure it wouldn't really happen.]

    And... (none / 0) (#45)
    by jbindc on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 01:13:53 PM EST
    the WH (Gibbs) got busted yesterday repeating the Dem talking points that the Republicans haven't offered up their own plan. Seems not only did they offer their own plan, it's been posted on and linked to by the White House website since October.

    Now, I'm not saying I support the R plan, but it has been up there and actually scored by the CBO, unlike the WH plan, which can't be scored because of the lack of details.

    Every day it looks more and more like "The Gong Show" at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.


    and the kicker (none / 0) (#46)
    by lilburro on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 01:26:43 PM EST
    is that the Republican bill of course is REALLY really bad:

    The Democratic bill, in other words, covers 12 times as many people and saves $36 billion more than the Republican plan.

    Obama and co. should be challenging the Republicans to talk up all their dumb ideas.  The point isn't that they have no ideas, it's that their ideas still suck.


    YES (none / 0) (#47)
    by ruffian on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 01:29:51 PM EST
    Why is that so hard for them to see and do? Obama did a little of it in that Q & A with Republicans, but it should have been carried forward every day since then.

    true dat (none / 0) (#49)
    by lilburro on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 01:41:40 PM EST
    see, I forgot all about the Q & A until you mentioned it.

    Why are we members of the dumbest political party on Earth?  Why?


    Speaking of Gibbs and the PO (none / 0) (#48)
    by BTAL on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 01:34:19 PM EST
    From today's press conference.

    Responding to the idea that the public option doesn't have a chance of passing in a final health care bill because Obama didn't put it in his online plan, Gibbs says: "I think that we have seen obviously ... that though there are some that are supportive of this, there isn't enough political support in a majority to get this through. The president wanted to find, took the Senate bill as the base, and looks forward to discussing consensus ideas on Thursday." (1:54 p.m.)

    Watch the number of Bennett signators come to a screeching halt.


    Interesting n/t (none / 0) (#50)
    by lilburro on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 01:44:04 PM EST